The Origin of Saint Patrick’s Day

Daven Hiskey March 7, 2013 3
Today I Found Out has teamed up with Jeremiah Warren to show his awesome “trivia” related videos here. You can subscribe to Warren’s YouTube Channel here.

If you liked this video and the Bonus Saint Patrick’s Day facts below, you might also enjoy:

Bonus Saint Patrick’s Day Facts:

  • The tradition of dying the water green in Chicago started in 1962.  The idea was hit upon by the business manager for the Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Local Union #110, Stephen Bailey (who was also one of the organizers of the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago at the time).  In 1961, a plumber came to meet Bailey wearing white coveralls that had bright green stains all over them.  Bailey asked how the stains got there and the plumber said that he’d been trying to trace some pollution leakages and was dumping the dye down drains at various points to figure out which line was leaking into the Chicago River so it could be disconnect it.  Bailey then got the idea that they could use this dye to turn the whole river green on Saint Patrick’s Day.  He then asked around and the consensus was that it could be done.  The following Saint Patrick’s Day, they dumped 100 lbs of the dye into the river.  Surprisingly, it turns out this was a bit of an overkill as the river stayed green for a full week.  The next year they reduced it to 50 lbs, which was still too much, keeping the river green for three days this time.  In 1964, they went with a mere 25 lbs, which turned out to be the perfect amount to use to keep the river green for roughly 1 day.
  • They later had to switch dyes due to environmentalists claiming the original dye was significantly polluting the river due to being oil based.  This was thought to be unlikely given it was non-toxic and with only 25 lbs of it dispersed in such a large body of water, the concentration was extremely low.  Nevertheless, they switched it up and came up with a new vegetable based dye that if they used about 40 pounds of it, could keep the river green for about 5 hours.
  • The dye poured into the Chicago River on Saint Patrick’s Day actually appears orange before it gets mixed into the river, turning it a nice bright green color.
  • As mentioned in the video, originally the color commonly associated with Patrick himself was blue.  This began to change all the way back as far as the 17th century when shamrocks and green ribbons started to be worn at Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.  The shamrock is associated with Saint Patrick owing to the stories (perhaps true, perhaps not) that he used the shamrock as a way to illustrate the divine trinity when evangelizing.
  • While Saint Patrick’s Day is usually celebrated on March 17, the day it is thought that Patrick died, every now and then this gets changed, in terms of the religious observance of the day.  For instance, in 1940 and 2008 March 17 was conflicting with other Catholic events, such as Palm Sunday in 1940.  As a result of this, in 1940 Saint Patrick’s Day was moved to April 3rd; in 2008 it was moved to March 14.  During these times, the secular celebration of the holiday is still celebrated on March 17th.
  • Around 1.6 million gallons of Guinness is consumed on St. Patrick’s Day.  This is a bit over double the amount on any other given day of the year.
  • Some of the stories and traditions associated with Saint Patrick are actually probably from another man that preceded Patrick by a 1-3 decades (exactly how much isn’t known), Palladius.  It has also been argued by some scholars that the blending of these two’s accomplishments was done purposefully to bolster the prestige of Saint Patrick.  Palladius was one of the earliest missionaries to Ireland, ordained by Pope Celestine the first as the “First Bishop to the Irish believing in Christ”.  However, accounts seem to indicate the Palladius and his companions’ mission was fairly unsuccessful and Palladius himself was eventually banished by the King of Leinster, at which point he went to Northern Britain to preach to the Scots. Nevertheless, much of what Palladius did accomplish while in Ireland has long since been credited to Saint Patrick instead and it’s difficult to tell in most cases exactly which of them accomplished what.
  • King George III in 1783 created a “Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick”, which is an order of knights of Saint Patrick given to certain people associated with Ireland who the monarchy wishes to honor.  It’s been 77 years since the last person was inducted into this order and the last person in the order died in 1974, Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester.   Nevertheless, the order still technically exists with the Queen functioning as the Sovereign.
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3 Comments »

  1. Chris March 15, 2013 at 6:31 am - Reply

    So…He was born in AD 35 and died in AD 461?

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey March 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      @Chris: There’s a correction bubble at that point in the audio :-)

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